The Estate Planning Docs YOU Need for YOUR Aging Parents
By Zachary Mushkatel on November 8, 2014
As our parents age, legitimate concerns will arise as to whether they have an estate plan, including all the right documents, and whether everything is in order. Do not assume your parents have already taken these steps; many people die “intestate” – without a will. Essentially, should your parent pass away without a will, the state will be responsible for distributing the estate, which can be a long and complex process – and potentially a costly one for the surviving family.
An Individual Estate Plan: Asset Preservation and Estate Distribution
No cookie-cutter estate plan will be effective. Without a careful and detailed evaluation of the estate and an individually-crafted estate plan put in place, serious problems with the distribution of the estate will arise. Protecting assets from unnecessary taxation allows more of those hard-earned assets to be passed onto the named beneficiaries. Laws affecting estate taxation change year to year. Any estate plan should be reviewed and updated as time passes.
The other issue to address is putting plans in place for a parent who becomes incapacitated due to dementia or illness. You will need to take charge of all of the important issues surrounding health care, paying bills, managing financial issues and other important matters.
The Discussion You Need to Have With Your Parents
Discussing these subjects can be difficult, but these conversations must take place before matters have progressed to a critical stage. Sit down with your parents and have the discussion. Our parents can be very independent and how you approach to the subject can have much to do with the outcome. Be compassionate, caring and helpful. It is important that you sit down with your parents and talk about helping them by meeting with an estate planning lawyer. Tell them that you want to ensure that all of the necessary documents are in place should something occur. Focusing upon the healthcare issue is often the most effective way to open the discussion and start this important dialogue.
You Need to Have Certain Documents in Your Possession
Certain documents should remain in your possession and be easily accessible. An urgent medical decision often cannot wait for you to search and find a document. Avoid conflicts within the family about important health care decisions by having all of the right documents in your possession. These include:
- Instructions: You need complete instructions about exactly what to do if your parent suffers a serious illness, becomes incapacitated or passes away.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney: This document gives you the authority to direct the various treatments that will be applied to your parent by medical professionals.
- Durable Power of Attorney: This written instrument gives the power to make financial decisions when a parent has become disabled or incapacitated.
- Mental Health Power of Attorney: This document gives you the authority to make decisions about mental health care for your parent should it become necessary.
Being involved with your parents in the estate planning process can allow you to fully understand their wishes, and to have an established relationship with their attorney so that all documents, such as the will, deeds, trusts are easily accessible, and you can work closely with the attorney when a parent is no longer able to manage their affairs, or has passed away.
When you and your parents need help, turn to Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC for advice from our Phoenix estate planning team.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.